How to create a DOM tree

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This page describes how to use the DOM Core API in JavaScript to create and modify DOM objects. It applies to all Gecko-based applications (such as Firefox) both in privileged (extensions) and unprivileged (web pages) code.

Dynamically creating a DOM tree

Consider the following XML document:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
  <person first-name="eric" middle-initial="H" last-name="jung">
    <address street="321 south st" city="denver" state="co" country="usa"/>
    <address street="123 main st" city="arlington" state="ma" country="usa"/>

  <person first-name="jed" last-name="brown">
    <address street="321 north st" city="atlanta" state="ga" country="usa"/>
    <address street="123 west st" city="seattle" state="wa" country="usa"/>
    <address street="321 south avenue" city="denver" state="co" country="usa"/>

The W3C DOM API, supported by Mozilla, can be used to create an in-memory representation of this document like so:

var doc = document.implementation.createDocument("", "", null);
var peopleElem = doc.createElement("people");

var personElem1 = doc.createElement("person");
personElem1.setAttribute("first-name", "eric");
personElem1.setAttribute("middle-initial", "h");
personElem1.setAttribute("last-name", "jung");

var addressElem1 = doc.createElement("address");
addressElem1.setAttribute("street", "321 south st");
addressElem1.setAttribute("city", "denver");
addressElem1.setAttribute("state", "co");
addressElem1.setAttribute("country", "usa");

var addressElem2 = doc.createElement("address");
addressElem2.setAttribute("street", "123 main st");
addressElem2.setAttribute("city", "arlington");
addressElem2.setAttribute("state", "ma");
addressElem2.setAttribute("country", "usa");

var personElem2 = doc.createElement("person");
personElem2.setAttribute("first-name", "jed");
personElem2.setAttribute("last-name", "brown");

var addressElem3 = doc.createElement("address");
addressElem3.setAttribute("street", "321 north st");
addressElem3.setAttribute("city", "atlanta");
addressElem3.setAttribute("state", "ga");
addressElem3.setAttribute("country", "usa");

var addressElem4 = doc.createElement("address");
addressElem4.setAttribute("street", "123 west st");
addressElem4.setAttribute("city", "seattle");
addressElem4.setAttribute("state", "wa");
addressElem4.setAttribute("country", "usa");

var addressElem5 = doc.createElement("address");
addressElem5.setAttribute("street", "321 south avenue");
addressElem5.setAttribute("city", "denver");
addressElem5.setAttribute("state", "co");
addressElem5.setAttribute("country", "usa");


See also the DOM chapter of the XUL Tutorial.

You can automate the creation of a DOM tree using a JXON reverse algorithm in association with the following JSON representation:

  "people": {
    "person": [{
      "address": [{
        "@street": "321 south st",
        "@city": "denver",
        "@state": "co",
        "@country": "usa"
      }, {
        "@street": "123 main st",
        "@city": "arlington",
        "@state": "ma",
        "@country": "usa"
      "@first-name": "eric",
      "@middle-initial": "H",
      "@last-name": "jung"
    }, {
      "address": [{
        "@street": "321 north st",
        "@city": "atlanta",
        "@state": "ga",
        "@country": "usa"
      }, {
        "@street": "123 west st",
        "@city": "seattle",
        "@state": "wa",
        "@country": "usa"
      }, {
        "@street": "321 south avenue",
        "@city": "denver",
        "@state": "co",
        "@country": "usa"
      "@first-name": "jed",
      "@last-name": "brown"

So what?

DOM trees can be queried using XPath expressions, converted to strings or written to a local or remote files using XMLSerializer (without having to first convert to a string), POSTed to a web server (via XMLHttpRequest), transformed using XSLT, XLink, converted to a JavaScript object through a JXON algorithm, etc.

You can use DOM trees to model data which isn't well-suited for RDF (or perhaps you just don't like RDF). Another application is that, since XUL is XML, the UI of your application can be dynamically manipulated, downloaded, uploaded, saved, loaded, converted, or transformed quite easily.

See also


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Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License v2.5 or later.

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